In this economy, buying a used car is a solid economic choice.  But if you do not know how to buy a good used car, you could be throwing money away.  Here is a used car buyer’s checklist from our car accident attorneys.

(There is a printable version of this used car buyer’s checklist at the bottom of this page.)

1.  Know the Differences When Buying From a Dealer vs. Buying From a Seller


  • Regulated by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
  • FTC’s Used Car Rule requires dealers to post a Buyers Guide in every used car.
  • The Buyers Guide will let you know if the used car comes with a warranty, advises you on safe buying practices and also lists any known mechanical and electrical problems at the time of sale.

Private sellers

  • Not regulated by the FTC
  • Usually not covered by the “implied warranties” of state law. (This means a private sale will probably be on an “as is” basis, unless your agreement with the seller specifically states otherwise.)
  • Not required to make sure a vehicle passes inspection -- or carry a minimum warranty -- in many states.

2.  Does the Used Car Come with a Warranty?

  • As Is/No Warranty
  • Implied Warranty (Warranty of Merchantability or Warranty of Fitness for a Particular Purpose)
  • Full Warranty

3.  Consider a Service Contract.

Warranties are included in a car’s price, but a service contract costs extra and is sold separately.

  • Does the service contract duplicate the warranty or does it begin after the warranty runs out?
  • Is the vehicle likely to need repairs?
  • Does the service contract cover all parts and systems of the car?
  • Is the dealer offering the service contract reputable?

4.  Avoid Spoken Promises.

  • Spoken promises are hard to enforce and are not easily proven in court.
  • If a dealer makes a promise, have it written on the Buyers Guide.

5.  Have Your Own Mechanic Inspect the Car.

  • Ask your mechanic if they perform a pre-purchase inspection.
  • Find out if any friends or family know a good mechanic that will do this.
  • Look in the phone directory under “Automotive Diagnostic Service.”

6.  Find a Mobile Inspection Service if Necessary.

Ask the mechanic for a written report with the following:

  • Cost estimate for necessary repairs.
  • Used car’s make, model and vehicle identification number (VIN).

7.  Take All Necessary Precautions When Buying a Used Car.

If you think your car accident was caused by a bad used car, then contact our bilingual San Diego law firm at 1-858-551-2090 for a FREE consultation with a car accident attorney.  You may also click here to submit your case for a FREE online review.

You owe nothing until we win your case.

Source: Federal Trade Commission's Facts for Consumers on Buying a Used Car